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Nikon D850 metering behavior
Old 01-12-2020   #1
menos
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Nikon D850 metering behavior

I have been using Nikon DSLRs since the D3 / D300 days.
I have been keeping my Nikon D3 since it was released when the Egyptians built pyramids and have kept a Nikon D800E since it was released just shortly before the introduction of the steam engine for whenever I needed a digital file at higher resolution and proper AF lenses.

I have now finally added a D850 in order to directly replace the D800E (and maybe or maybe not finally retire the good old D3).

Now after an afternoons test shooting with the D850 my exposures are all over the place and I cannot make any sense of what exactly is happening.

Mostly I see drastically underexposed shots although I keep only a mild EV-0.3 as I was used to from the D800E.
I see shots underexposed as far as ~1 full stop but in a series of shots have the odd shot that is only about 1/3 to 1/2 stop under exposed (as I would have mostly expected).

I have to add that perhaps the lighting conditions have added to the funkiness (a room full of Phillips Hue lights which I have so far zero experience if these trick current DSLR metering systems in strange ways or not - my good old Gossen meters seemed happy with those lights so far)


I have set the camera as good as I can with it's Chinese only menu system (YES, NIKON HAS ACTUALLY COMPLETELY REMOVED ANY LANGUAGE OPTIONS OTHER THAN CHINESE from Chinese domestic cameras and I have to physically make a trip to the Nikon repair center with my brand new camera to get foreign languages added to the D850 - likely at cost as I have been told - which EVERY OTHER international market D850 has out of the box). This is indeed a new low in anti grey-market protectionism by Nikon.


I may have missed a crucial setting (perhaps not locking AE as I have set all my Nikon DSLRs before with a half pressed shutter release button as I only use AF with the AF-ON button).

I also do recall having had similar difficulties migrating from the D3 / D300 to the D800E back then as Nikon did changed the meter algorithms beginning with the D800 generation of cameras.


Did something similar occur with the Nikon D5 / D500 / D850 gen of cameras since Nikons introduction of the much more sophisticated new metering system ?

As Thom Hogan likes to say - I feel my cheese has been moved drastically :-(
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Old 01-12-2020   #2
menos
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Some self answers for inspiration and further testing:

custom settings b7 is needed to mitigate some general underexposure behavior after sufficient testing

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4203659

https://onlinemanual.nikonimglib.com...de_05_b07.html

Thom Hogan mentions some metering characteristics in his short review:

"Exposure: Like the D5 and D500 you need to figure out if you're a JPEG or raw shooter. Why? Because you can't optimize exposure for both. If you try to keep JPEG from saturating, you'll underexpose your raws. If you expose your raws to the max (ETTR), you'll overexpose your JPEGs.

I'd also caution you a bit about the new Auto Picture Control. If you're shooting JPEG and don't mind the camera moving clarity, brightness, contrast, and saturation as it sees fit, no worries. But if you're shooting NEF only and going by what the histogram says, you're going to be getting inconsistent results. My usual rule applies here: if you have a UniWB file, use that with a straight-line Picture Control based off Neutral. Or just use Neutral. "

source:
http://www.dslrbodies.com/cameras/cu...ra-review.html
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Old 01-12-2020   #3
Ronald M
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If camera works, keep it.

My nikons are 750,800E, 800, and two D3 almost no exposures.
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Old 01-12-2020   #4
Huss
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There are settings like the Highlight weighted metering which would cause underexposure in many lighting conditions. Check to see if that has been set.

https://nps.nikonimaging.com/technic...ovie/exposure/
https://photographylife.com/recommen...-d850-settings
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Old 01-12-2020   #5
ZivcoPhoto
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Can you reset it to factory settings and see how well it works in “P” mode? Then if all is well you can try custom settings one at a time.


(D200, D300, D700, Z6 owner)
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Old 01-12-2020   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZivcoPhoto View Post
Can you reset it to factory settings and see how well it works in P mode? Then if all is well you can try custom settings one at a time.


(D200, D300, D700, Z6 owner)
Good idea. Do a full camera reset.
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Old 01-12-2020   #7
menos
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
If camera works, keep it.

My nikons are 750,800E, 800, and two D3 almost no exposures.
I likely won't keep the D800E as the D850 completely replaces it in purpose and features.
Seeing how little money one can get for even a great condition D3 such as mine I may keep that one just to shoot manual focus lenses (I always install in all my Nikon SLRs all matte focussing screens that are even sensitive enough to distinguish between f1.2 and f1.4 which is pretty much impossible with the clear standard screens the DSLRs come with nowadays.

I updated to the D850 only for two reasons:
- much superior AF system (I always found the D800E AF system too slow and too sketchy for difficult lenses like the 105/1.4 or often even just the 58/1.4) the initial focus tests with the D850 show that it is WORLDS apart and just for this fully worth the upgrade costs
- movie (the D800E really is not a nice camera to use for video and I rather grabbed an iPhone every single time instead)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
There are settings like the Highlight weighted metering which would cause underexposure in many lighting conditions. Check to see if that has been set.

https://nps.nikonimaging.com/technic...ovie/exposure/
https://photographylife.com/recommen...-d850-settings
Super helpful tip ;-)
I saw there are a whole battery of new custom settings available in the D850 (which unfortunately being fully Chinese language menus only I had a hard time figuring them out).
I will get to Nikon once I can make some time this week to get a hold on the marketing guy who thought that was a good idea and strangle him with the excess USB cords they could have kept instead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZivcoPhoto View Post
Can you reset it to factory settings and see how well it works in P mode? Then if all is well you can try custom settings one at a time.


(D200, D300, D700, Z6 owner)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
Good idea. Do a full camera reset.
Yes, the full factory reset is the next move once the camera is swapped over to international language firmware.
for now I kept my D800E / D3 metering settings (I mirrored those as best I could, digging through the custom settings using Nikons excellent online manual and my D800E.

Also I threw away the matrix metering I still had accidentally on (I always used to adjust the metering in my Nikon DSLRs to "mimic" the centerweighted metering I get with my Leica digitals which is just perfect to me). I just prefer to use centerweighted + AE lock when half pressing the shutter release and lock exposure and recompose )+AF exclusively on the AF-ON button).
Matrix metering + P mode and the all auto AF modes are fantastic if you just hand the camera to a bystander or simply blindly one handed spray and pray but other then that I have no use for them.

What seems to be concerning that the picture control modes have a VERY BIG impact on how the histogram is built (I usually shoot NEF only).
Leica has made a great improvement on exposure and metering with their first Leica MM where the histogram is actually calculated from the RAW data instead of a JPG - I wish Nikon could do this :-(

Other than these little issues the D850 looks to be a truly great upgrade over the D800E
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Old 01-12-2020   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menos View Post
Other than these little issues the D850 looks to be a truly great upgrade over the D800E
There are so many times I wish I did not trade my D850 for my Z7. Control layout and handling is so much better with the D850.
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Old 01-12-2020   #9
Chris101
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Also look at your white balance and metering mode settings. Are there any asterisks showing? In white balance A* setting, exposure is modified to produce the best skin tones under natural light. In metering mode (spot)* exposure is adjusted to keep the highest value in the frame from blowing out. These settings got me when I started with the 850.
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Old 01-13-2020   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
There are so many times I wish I did not trade my D850 for my Z7. Control layout and handling is so much better with the D850.
For myself I have never seen the need for a mirrorless system other then the rangefinders I already have (if I need small and light I use a rangefinder or an iPhone and I never needed to "replicate" a full pro DSLR AF system in a smaller lighter package + I just can't cope with EVFs).
I have therefore never tested or used any of the Nikon or Canon mirrorless cameras.
I would have thought that Nikon would have implemented a mirror image of the body controls they have so carefully perfected and evolved in every generation of SLRs since the F and applied them to their mirrorless cameras.

I have the hands of a 6'4 240lbs guy - the D850 is on the very small side for my hands and just barely big enough to be usable (I much prefer full sized DSLRs but Nikon sadly doesn't do a high res big body any longer - a D850 sensor in a D5 body would be an ideal SLR for me).

The D800E never felt really comfortable so I was pleasantly surprised that the small re-sculpting changes on the D850 make it handle just enough better to notice (slightly deeper grip and here and there small changes in shape + some logical button moving).

I could not possible imagine to use a smaller body than that and hang heavy lenses off the front
Good news though is how fast these bodies depreciate - I have seen second hand D850 bodies in the 1500 USD range and below already so it should be easy to switch back or add a D850 again down the road that is if you haven't made the grave mistake of selling your F mount lenses (I did once and I paid dearly to eventually buy them all back)!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris101 View Post
Also look at your white balance and metering mode settings. Are there any asterisks showing? In white balance A* setting, exposure is modified to produce the best skin tones under natural light. In metering mode (spot)* exposure is adjusted to keep the highest value in the frame from blowing out. These settings got me when I started with the 850.
Very nice tip ;-) This must be a new feature - I never remember having seen that before.
I will look out for this!

I have added a little meter compensation to matrix (should I ever happen to use it) and center weighted metering and see how the meter behaves from here.

Sadly there is an issue where I read opposing descriptions on the net regarding the issue of the histogram being calculated based on the picture setting infused JPG thumbnail when shooting NEF only.

In the past it was a relatively safe bet to simply set the picture settings to "Neutral" to have a relatively conservative histogram, being close enough to prevent blown highlights and clipped shadows.
Now some people report this is no longer safe with the D850 and describe that in some lighting conditions the histogram is WAY off this way and one is better off using the "Standard" picture settings (which is more off most of the time but less often completely off).

This sounds like a really bad solution from Nikon, not being able to trust the histogram any longer (granted I also always had a haaaaard time with this since the D800E, the D3 and D300 never produced any issues here before).
I wish there was a "pro metering mode" where all the highlight and skin tone guessing features could be completely switched off and the meter could be reverted to how it works on a Nikon F3 or a Leica M for that matter and the photographer would have to make decisions re. difficult lighting conditions.

By comparison it surprises me how the good old and simple meter and AWB of the original first gen Leica S2 works PERFECT by comparison with any Nikon DSLR since the D3/D300 generation. I think Nikon got themselves caught into a bit of a metering mess here.
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Old 01-13-2020   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menos View Post
Good news though is how fast these bodies depreciate - I have seen second hand D850 bodies in the 1500 USD range and below already so it should be easy to switch back or add a D850 again down the road that is if you haven't made the grave mistake of selling your F mount lenses (I did once and I paid dearly to eventually buy them all back)
I have kept all my F mount lenses as I am primarily a film shooter, and so use F film bodies. The D850 worked perfectly with all these lenses, the Z7/Z6 only works appropriately using the FTZ adapter with the G series and later lenses.
It cannot AF with D series lenses, and acts completely dumb with AI/AIS lenses. if you are using those, just buy any cheapo adapter as it will work just as well.
The incredible thing about the FTZ adapter is that Nikon left off the aperture feeler. Seriously lame especially seeing that their extension tubes have them.
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Old 01-13-2020   #12
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That indeed sounds like Nikon is really at the start of their mirrorless journey.
I wish them well and hope they can build a strong offering to parallel what they have with their full frame DSLR and F mount lens lineup.

I think it really is best to keep those AiS lenses on film bodies up to a F3 and if you must use them for digital (some lenses simply have no equal in modern lenses like the 58/1.2, 105/1.8 with a very unique look), just use a D3, D700 with a proper modified manual focussing screen.
I love how my D3 and D800E with full matte screens work (I believe these are cut screens from Canon full matte focussing screens that officially are ground to distinguish to f1.4 for precise focussing but I can actually see a difference even down to f1.2 vs f1.4 with the Noct).

That will be a mod I am figuring out for the D850 once I know how to do it (hopefully without issues with its more complex metering and focus system - the D3 and D800E had no issues there and were pretty much straight screen swaps with shimming on the D800E).

I never liked shooting with EVFs - it never felt comfortable to me.
A proper matte focussing screen or better even a Nikon or Leica RF I take over any EVF any day.
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